Who says adventures have to be all about intellectual stimulation? Sure, with their emphasis on puzzles and story, they generally appeal to the left and right brain above all, but dating back even before Sierra's Leisure Suit Larry, there's always been room in the genre for a few risqué titles that prefer to target the big and little brains instead. (Or upper and lower brains, if that sounds more gender-inclusive.) If you can't follow the connotation here, then you A) probably shouldn't be playing adventures, and B) definitely should not be considering Lula 3D.
Make no mistake about it: Lula 3D is indeed pornographic, and unashamedly so, proudly declaring its "Bouncin' Boobs Technology" on the front cover along with its scantily-clad heroine. But strip off the erotic layers and it's also very much a traditional adventure for the vast majority of the game. There are some arcade shooting sequences thrust in here and there, but they're finished all too soon, and for the most part players will be guiding the… umm… titular protagonist on a road trip across America in a full-blown adventure. (I didn't just say any of that, and you didn't just read it. Move right along.)
While hardly a household name (not that you'd find a household to admit to it), this is not the first time we've seen Lula strut her stuff. The buxom blonde has starred in several other cross-genre games over the years, but here at last she has arrived in a 3D adventure, and very 3D at that. This time around, Lula is an erotic film producer whose latest movie is abruptly halted by the disappearance of her star triplets. With a little investigating around her lavish Beverly Hills mansion, it soon becomes clear that the girls have been kidnapped, and it's up to Lula to hop into her hot girlie '57 Chevy to track them down. From these simple beginnings, the story broadens into a cross-country treasure hunt that will lead players to diverse locations like Mt. Rushmore, a wild western movie-prop town, and the seedy backstreets of San Francisco.
I'd crack wise here about the latex-thin plot staying true to the celluloid heritage of porn, and that's not untrue, but Lula 3D actually has a decent premise that stands up to comparison with many other adventures. I'm not sure whether that says more about this game or adventures in general, but there you have it. Where it all unravels here is in the quality of the writing itself, which ranges from mildly cringeworthy to laughably abysmal to flat out broken. Or should I say "gebrochen", as one of the key culprits here is the atrocious (and at times even unfinished) translation of the game from its original German.
To be fair, there are some amusing moments to be found in the predictably lowbrow dialogue, some of which are even intentional. The purple-haired, snobby Baroness shines in her moment in the sun, and Lula herself has a sassy, whimsical charm that helps you overlook her usually terrible jokes. At least she seems to be enjoying herself, and a certain amount of that is intangibly infectious. For the most part, however, the game is bogged down by an endless string of inane scenarios, characters, and conversations. If it's not randomly abandoning real world settings for absurdities like talking monkeys and canine-shooting catapults, then it's presenting barely-coherent dialogue only one step better than the greatest hits of Babelfish. One typically bizarre character flees a discussion with Lula, exclaiming in terror that she's making no sense. Frankly, I was inclined to agree with him, feeling an increasing amount of terror myself. It doesn't help that speech in the game is so often different than the subtitles that accompany it, and I lost track of how many times one character's line was actually spoken by another. I'm not sure whether the localization or the original script is ultimately more to blame for the disastrous final results, but that's a bit like asking whether the water or the iceberg had more to do with the Titanic sinking. Let's just say they both play their part.
Not to be outdone by the poor writing, the game design in Lula 3D proves to be equally lousy. By sticking closely to established genre formula much of the time, the game follows a very traditional path but still manages to snag its stiletto heels and trip up at far too many turns. It's a shame, too, because the elements are all there, including a surprising amount of non-essential interactivity, but they're just woefully implemented as a package. The bulk of the gameplay consists of talking to different characters, exploring environments, and picking up anything that isn't nailed down. Since the game inexplicably solves the one or two thought-provoking code puzzles for you, the only challenges are based on where and how to apply the items you've acquired and miraculously crammed into Lula's already-overstuffed bra. You can't combine items, so solutions are always straightforward, but the process of reaching those solutions is wildly inconsistent. In some cases, the item you need is literally about three feet from where you discover you need it. In others you'll need to jump through a completely unintuitive series of hoops in order to advance, and which you'll encounter at any one time is a crapshoot (with an emphasis on "crap"; the "shoot" comes later).
A bigger problem than the logic of the puzzles is the annoying linearity of hidden triggers. In one of the locations, there are two separate buildings that I needed to enter but couldn't. Access to one was magically granted when I talked to a random character about seemingly unrelated topics. Twice. I still don't know what I did to trigger entry to the other one, but some combination of various tasks that had no obvious bearing on the building in question. And while you can pick up any object any time for most of the game, including a great many red herrings, out of the blue there's an item you can't pick up until you've been informed of its existence, even though it's plainly visible and clearly identified. These problems extend to dialogue, too, as information is routinely revealed out of order, making it clear that the developers had a very specific sequence they expected to be followed, and few (if any) efforts were made to accommodate player freedom. These are just token examples, but every time the game starts to build any momentum at all, its pace is killed by these kinds of completely arbitrary design obstacles.Continued on the next page...